LEWISTON — Crews began picking apart the remaining walls of the Cowan Mill on Tuesday afternoon, knocking them down brick by brick.

A few city employees, security guards and workers from Chabot Construction were on hand at 11 a.m. Tuesday when the judge signed an order clearing the way for the city to tear down the remains of the structure, which was ravaged by fire last week.

“First, they’ll be clearing the way to the structure, making sure they have a safe path,” City Budget and Purchasing Director Norm Beauparlant said. “It’s not going to be a fast process.”

Crews began moving heavy equipment into place at about noon and began pulling bricks from the wall at about 1 p.m.

Beauparlant said the plan called for crews to level walls on the Mill Street side first. They should begin knocking down the mill’s smokestack Wednesday and will use chains wrapped around the walls facing the river, pulling them back onto the site.

The work is delicate, and slow. Crews are using a lift to push against the wall, knocking off bricks one row at a time. Neither a bulldozer nor an excavator was used Tuesday.

The process could take several days, Beauparlant said. The city signed the contract with Chabot Construction, agreeing to pay $60,000 to knock down the walls. No one had decided how the site will be cleared of bricks and building debris or how quickly.

The site is owned by Martin Finley, although Planning Director Gil Arsenault said the city would place a $60,000 lien on the property to recover the demolition costs. The city would be repaid if the property is sold or transferred.

A few dozen onlookers came and went during the demolition process Tuesday.

Jackie Royles of New Gloucester arrived just before the work began in earnest and asked Beauparlant if she could have a brick from the mill for her uncle Larry Lauze of Jackson, Tenn.

“He wanted me to mail him one because he worked at the mill for a long time,” Royles said. “People said I could just mail him any old brick and that would be good, but my conscience wouldn’t let me do that.”

Beauparlant retrieved a single brick for her. Like others visiting the site Tuesday, Royles said she had grown up in Lewiston and the mill was part of the landscape of her youth. Many there said they felt like they were watching another chapter in the city’s history unfold.

James Grenier of Lewiston stood in Veterans Park snapping photos with his cell phone. He said his son wanted him to get some pictures before the building was completely gone.

“It’s too bad,” Grenier said. “There’s a lot of history there.”

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Regional Editor Scott Thistle contributed to this report.

Chabot’s Construction Co. tears down the Cowan Mill on Tuesday after Justice Thomas Delahanty II issued a demolition order. The work is expected to be ongoing over the next couple of days.

Workers from Chabot’s Construction watch as an outer wall is knocked down during demolition Tuesday.

Brothers Tom Ouellette, left, 11, and Jon Ouellette, 16, of Lewiston, watch the Cowan Mill being demolished Tuesday. “It’s cool,” Jon said.

Demolition on the Cowan Mill began on Tuesday after court ruled it was unsafe.

Cowan Mill damaged structure comes down as demolition work proceeds on Tuesday.

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